Designing Agile Organisations Part 3: Best Practice Guidelines and Perpspectives

Best practice guidelines and perspectives

When designing agile structures, the following guidelines may be helpful:


Levels of Work  Theory


Levels of Work Theory helps to unpack organisational complexity. Ensure the structure is Requisite and that role complexity is identified so that individual capability can be matched to optimize “flow”. This in turn enhances productivity and engagement.


Appreciative Conversations An appreciative approach is about valuing and respecting people for who they are so that they can understand the value they bring to their organisations and this understanding ultimately translates into enhanced performance. By using an appreciative consulting approach, you gain a clear understanding and appreciation of your current and future challenges, followed by the co-creation and shared implementation of solutions.


Re-configurable multidimensional organisations Re-configurable organizations are able to reorganize around opportunities and leverage cross-functional teams, internal information to coordinate complexities and partnerships to secure capabilities the firm does not have. Exploit the value in both the stable and dynamic portions.


Built to Last


Built to last organisations are built on the assumption that continuous change is simply business as usual. The right design principals ensure that when the time comes to alter the direction of the organization, everyone moves together based on a common understanding and felt need for the change


The Centrality of customer Expand the “surface area” of work to increase close touch with market and other environmental demands.  This enhances the ability to identify external needs and drivers – and feeds back into continuous and dynamic definition and redefinition of a series of short-term competitive advantages


Shared Leadership Embrace shared leadership and put systems in place to maximise the benefits of shared leadership. (including being able to process and respond to information quickly; building a deeper cadre of leadership talent; dual championship of change efforts)


Front-Back organization Where the “front end” creates flexible, cross-functional and customer-facing teams to configure and sell unique products, services and systems and the “back end” develops new technologies, products and systems; maintains the supply chain; and conducts other activities that support the front end. In so doing, customer requirements, supplier relationships and other environmental demands have an ever-present influence (either directly or indirectly) on nearly everyone in the organization.


Process Based Here cross-functional teams address the requirements of both internal and external customers. In such a design, each core process — e.g. understanding the market, developing new businesses, building solutions or delivering value — must balance current demands for efficiency with future market needs. Although each process has a slightly different focus, successful execution requires the application and coordination of each function in service of customer requirements and corporate objectives.


Network structures Network structures consist of individual organizations (or units within a company) that have been pulled together to exploit specific opportunities. An integrating entity coordinates the activities of the different parts, much as a studio assembles and coordinates the work of actors, screenwriters, camera crews and others necessary to create a movie.
Perspectives to consider in organisational design

Organisational design does not happen in isolation and the following perspectives should be considered in the design process.



Who does the person report to? Who do they need to work with internally and externally? What is the nature of their relationship with each stakeholder? What are the key exchanges? “Formal” relationships for the standard view of the organisation design, as well as those that are essential but external to the organisation




Are the decisions being made as near to the point of impact as possible, by the person best informed and able to make them? Does the decision-making process provide appropriate autonomy and authority levels?




What enterprise level processes will the design need to support? How does the design support these processes?




What measures will be required to monitor progress and performance? Do the measures align with the overall organisational objectives? Do the parts add up to the whole?




Does the incentive and reward scheme align with strategy and structure across the organisation?

Does the scheme encourage desired results and behaviour? Is a total view of rewards (not just financial) considered?


Talent How will the design help the organisation to sustain itself? How will the design support attracting, developing, promoting and replacing talent?

Built-to-change companies are concerned about being caught off-guard, so they place everyone close to customers and the environment. That way, when the time comes to alter the direction of the organisation, everyone moves together based on a common understanding and felt need for the change.

Structuring agile organisations is not an easy task – it requires thoughtful and deliberate action, a willingness to “let-go” and an openness to constant review and re-design.